An Insider's Guide to Successful Work Search

An Insider's Guide to Successful Work Search

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SFU's Career Specialist Deanne Esdale, with Francis Mercurio, Career Peer, show you how to set up for a successful search by getting strategic and supported. You deserve to get noticed! 

Discover your Strengths

Ready to begin? Map your skills, strengths, values and interests. Talk to people who know you well to help. Next, make lists of companies or roles you are excited about, what kinds of challenges you are interested in solving, and what kinds of work is needed in the world right now. Let your natural interests, skills you like using and values you cherish, guide you.

Be Strategic 

Learn where the jobs are so that you can focus your efforts. Use reliable sources about employment and funding information. Study the market and who’s hiring. Sign up for newsletters, and track your favourite thought leaders and companies on social media. Volunteer, attend an info session, and expand your networks on LinkedIn. Maximize recruitment platforms by diversifying keyword searches. 

Ask good Questions  

Once you have a sense of the directions you are interested in, it's time to dig deeper. You'll want to know more about the work, such as expectations, rewards, protocols for health and safety, inclusivity, or other specifics to your circumstance. Ask good questions so that you find out that something isn't what you thought, or won't work for you, before ending up in a job you don't love. 

Talk to People

Learn how to have a virtual coffee (informational interview) with someone in a position you are curious about. Gain interviewing confidence by booking a virtual interview practice and try out Interview Stream. Grow work-related skills and get involved with programs, volunteer roles, workshops or training. Not only are you adding to your resume, you are growing your community, giving back and gaining potential referrals to paid work. Future employers will be impressed with your proactive mindset, too. 

Analyze before you Apply

To have your application stand out in a stack of resumes, deconstruct the job description to identify what the employer wants, and match their list of qualifications to what can you offer. Import keywords to your resume and cover letter, and adjust the skills summary, skills sections, ordering, headings and key words. Develop accomplishment statements that you can customize and include keywords and values you share with the company in your cover letter, and be sure to study the finer points of applicant tracking systems (ATS) to ensure you don't unnecessarily miss an opportunity. If you can demonstrate your fit, you can make the bond! 

Good Design

Your application has a better chance of being read when it looks good and is easy to read. Consider a consistent layout and design throughout your resume, cover letter, and references list. Find examples in the OLC Co-op Resume Gallery for inspiration. Check that all information is accurate and error-free. There is nothing worse than hitting send and realizing there is a spelling error in your opening line! 

Manage your Time

Call on the awesome skills you've developed as a student to stay organized! Save your contact lists, job descriptions and application documents. Bookmark your research. Focus on the jobs you have the best chance of getting an interview for, or leads that seem the strongest. Always try to make time to research the company and role, and save time for interview practice.  

Remain Positive and Ask for Help

From Deanne: Keep your head high! It is actually (unfortunately) common to have multiple applications rejected. There are so many reasons why it might not be your time to shine - at this particular job, on this particular day. Try not to get too discouraged, opportunities will continue to show up and there will be a day when the door opens and the offer is made. 

If you have sent out several job applications and heard nothing back, our Career Education Specialists can review your methods and help you learn new ones, so that you can stay hopeful, and feel great about sending quality applications that will pay off for you. 

From Francis: Getting rejected is a big fear for many people, and when a job application you spent hours working on is ignored or dismissed, it can be crushing. You may even feel like the employer rejected you personally, triggering “I’m not good enough” and “no one will ever hire me!” Keep making connections and continue to push out applications for roles you feel excited about. Don’t fail to plan, and get support from a student Career Peer if you are having trouble creating your cover letter, resume or LinkedIn.

Learn to recognize opportunities and leverage your skills and strengths. We have free and confidential appointment for all students and recent alumni. Book at

Lead image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

Author Bios


Deanne Esdale is a Career Education Specialist at Simon Fraser University Career & Volunteer Services and serves as editor for ENGAGE blog. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Francis Mercurio is a Fourth-Year Psychology student and Business minor concentrating on Human Resources. He enjoys getting to know people, reading books on self-improvement, history and philosophy and volunteering as a Career Peer. You can see what he is up to in through his LinkedIn.

Beyond the Article


Posted on May 29, 2020